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Open All Hours thr-thr-thr-thrills all the customers!

"Poor Arkwright with that stutter! But what an excellent job actor David Villiers made of the speech impediment that the legendary Ronnie Barker so brilliantly devised for the miserly shopkeeper who graced our TV screens for so many hilarious episodes of Open All Hours.

Luckily Mr Villiers was more than competent as well at stu-stu-stu-stuttering his way through the script in Eclipse Producions' stage premiere of the former sitcom. For as the saying reminds us, the legendary Ronnie Barker's was "not an easy act to follow" - possibly one of the hardest. So, congratulations to Eclipse and David Villiers for taking on a difficult feat and succeeding where expectation and familiarity proceeded at a march for most of the sell out audiences at the Victory Hall in Balcombe.

Without exception, Eclipse's talented cast managed convincing Yorkshire accents with their laboured emphasis in certain vowels and the up and down delivery was probably more reliable than miserly Arkwright's hit and miss grocery services. Mr Villiers' pendulum stance with hands firmly in overall pockets, brought back fond images from the small screen of Barker at his best and for the first half of this show it left me feeling a little uncomfortable that it wasn't Barker and his sidekick David Jason, as the mistreated errand boy Granville, that I was watching. But that was always going to be the danger for this ambitious company, although there was never any shortage of laughter at writer Roy Clarke's classic jokes and I overheard one woman in the interval say: "It's just like watching it on television!"

By the second half I, too, was fully absorbed by smutty Arkwright and teasing Nurse Gladys Emmanuel's antics, not to mention gloomy Cyril's moaning and Mrs Featherstone's prim aloofness.

The final icing on the j-j-j-j-genuine j-j-j-Jamaican j-j-j-j-ginger cake was Jamie Collins as down trodden and romantically desperate Granville, who finally freed his frustrations by swapping his knitted pullover for a pop star-esque pink shirt and cocoa packet foil top "gold" medallion to adorn his revealing but hairless chest. Jamie's attempts - or should I say Granville's naive and awkward efforts at strutting his stuff that ended so disastrously with his medallion caught in the till - were comedy at its best that left you feeling desperately sorry for the downtrodden corner shop lad.

As Arkwright might say to himself, after pulling down the shutters outside his shop in Doncaster suburb of Balby, "I think I'll look out for the next production of that company, Eclipse Productions. The cast were pretty good, the set was a picture and I like that director chap John Shepherd."

Sussex TV stars Zoe Ball and Norman 'Fat Boy Slim' Cook were reputed to be in the audience at the Victory Hall, another accolade to Eclipse's reputation."

NODA review